Elefant, by Martin Suter, translated by Jamie Bulloch


An engaging, heart-warming tale of redemption, genetic engineering and a miniature pink glow-in-the-dark elephant, and my candidate for German Literature Month

I loved this book, and was so pleased to see it published in English translation for 2018. Skilfully translated by Jamie Bulloch, the text flows well, and does full justice to the original.

The book opens with Schoch, a homeless alcoholic, discovering a tiny pink elephant in the cave where he sleeps. He naturally dismisses it as a hallucination brought on by the day’s excessive drinking (an assumption, incidentally, that an English-speaking reader will have more affinity with, as the German equivalent of ‘seeing pink elephants’ is actually ‘seeing white mice’ – there’s an educational fun fact to expand your cultural horizons!).

Moving back and forth between different timelines, the book gradually draws together all the threads of the story until we finally discover how Sabu, the diminutive pink pachyderm in question, finds her way into the cave. We follow Schoch and Valerie, a vet who runs a street clinic for homeless people’s animals, as they try to care for and protect this mysterious creature; Kaung, the elephant whisperer from the circus where Sabu was born; and Roux, the ruthless genetic engineer who just wants his property back for the clonable cell material he can harvest.

The chapters are very short, making it a great book to pick up even if you just have five minutes spare (and you’ll want to pick it up at any opportunity!) And I now know slightly more than I thought I would ever need to about elephant sperm harvesting and IVF procedures! =8-0

An endearing book, beautifully written – just read it!

My thanks go to NetGalley and publishers 4th Estate for an advance reader copy of the translation.

Deli counter verdict: a warming grilled Emmental cheese sandwich with plenty of pickles.



3 thoughts on “Elefant, by Martin Suter, translated by Jamie Bulloch

  1. Wow, this one sounds fascinating! It’s quite an achievement to build a plot around the appearance of a pink elephant in a cave. And interesting to hear that the saying about pink elephants doesn’t exist in German. White mice seem like quite dull things to see when you’re drunk!


    1. Hah! Yes, though Suter was obviously aware of the meaning of pink elephants to an English-speaking audience, as it’s mentioned at one point in the book. I used to think pink elephants came to have their meaning after Disney’s Dumbo, but apparently the usage goes back farther than that!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s